Community Legal Information Clinic

Housing Law

Provides free legal information regarding Landlord/Tenant relations. This information includes, but is not limited to, habitability issues, security deposits, evictions, lease agreements, roommate disputes, and mobile home law. The following are common responses to frequently asked questions. These responses are not legal advice, simply legal information.

The Community Legal Information Clinic (CLIC) is an undergraduate law clinic comprised of paralegal interns only.  WE ARE NOT ATTTORNEYS AND CANNOT PROVIDE YOU LEGAL ADVICE NOR LEGAL REPRESENTATION.  We are paralegal interns and provide legal information only. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I received a thirty (30) day eviction notice. How long do I have to move out?
According to NOLO’s California Tenants’ Rights (22nd edition), when a month-to-month tenant has been renting the unit for less than one (1) year, they have thirty (30) days to vacate until their landlord can file the proper paperwork to begin the eviction process (known as an unlawful detain complaint). For more information regarding California’s eviction process visit California Courts website.(opens in new window) 

2. How much time do I have to file a response after being served with the Summons and Complaint of my unlawful detainer?
According to the California Courts website, after being served with the Summons and (unlawful detainer) Complaint, there is a deadline of five (5) days to respond if you were served in person. If you were served by substituted service or “post and mail,” you have fifteen (15) days after the date the server mailed the court papers to file a response. If you decide to file a response, your options include filing a motion to quash, demurrer, or answer to the unlawful detainer complaint. in new window)

A complete overview of the eviction process can be found below: in new window)

3. It has been three (3) months since I moved out and I still have not received my security deposit. What can I do?
Under California Civil Code § 1950.5, landlords are required to either return the tenant’s deposit in full or mail or personally give the tenant an explanation of any deductions within twenty-one (21) days after the tenancy has been terminated. If you are unable to reach an agreement with your landlord, one of your options is to sue them in small claims court.* For more information on California’s small claims court procedure, go to the California Courts website(opens in new window).

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4. My roommate moved out before our lease was up and is refusing to pay their half of the rent. What can I do?
According to NOLO’s California Tenants’ Rights (22nd edition), co-tenants are “jointly and severally liable” for paying rent. With this, if you and your roommate signed a lease or rental agreement with your landlord, you are considered co-tenants and are expected to pay rent. In order to avoid being evicted for unpaid rent, one of your options is to send your roommate a written request for the unpaid rent.

Additionally, according to NOLO’s California Tenants’ Rights (22nd edition), if you are unable to reach an agreement with your roommate, you have the option of suing them in small claims court. 

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5. I contacted my landlord one (1) month ago to fix my leaky roof, but I have not received any response. Is this a habitability issue?
Under California Civil Code §1941.1, California tenants are legally entitled to a habitable and livable place. When a landlord fails to maintain a habitable rental unit, the tenant may have legal rights to withhold rent, repair and deduct, sue the landlord, or move out without notice.

According to NOLO’s California Tenants’ Rights (22nd edition), rent withholding allows for you to stop paying rent to the landlord until the repairs are made. To withhold rent, you must meet the following prerequisites:

  • It’s a major repair or habitability problem
  • The problem must not be something that you or a guest caused either deliberately or through carelessness or neglect
  • You told the landlord about the problem and gave him or her a reasonable opportunity to fix it
  • You’ve withheld a reasonable amount of rent, relative to the problem
  • You’ve complied with any local laws or rent withholding

With repair and deduct, you can hire a repair person to fix or, or repair it yourself, and subtract the cost from the following month’s rent. You can get more information regarding rent withholding and “repair and deduct” from NOLO(opens in new window)

6. My tenant moved out one (1) month ago and left a lot of their belongings behind. Can I throw them away?
According to California Civil Code § 1983, if the tenancy has been terminated and the tenant has moved out of the rental unit, any property left behind is considered abandoned. With this, you have the option of notifying the tenant of their abandoned property and your intention to dispose of it. The tenant’s abandoned property may be stored in a safe location for at least fifteen (15) days (after the notice is personally delivered) or eighteen (18) days (if mailed). in new window)

7. I let my friend/partner/family member temporarily move in with me and now they are refusing to leave. How can I get them out?
According to the NOLO website, “Many states and cities have implemented eviction bans(opens in new window) for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. Even if there isn’t a ban, most courts across the United States have postponed hearings on non-essential matters—including hearings on eviction and landlord-tenant matters. As this article describes, your roommate doesn’t have to be on the lease or rental agreement to legally qualify as a tenant or to acquire rights similar to those of an official tenant. This means that you’re likely stuck with your roommate for now. Check the language of any applicable bans and court notices to find out exactly what you can and cannot do during the outbreak.” This is true “(e)ven if you’re not able to have your roommate physically removed from your rental at this time, you can take steps now that will facilitate ending the relationship as soon as possible. For example, write the roommate a letter stating that they must leave as soon as the state of emergency is declared over. If you decide you’d like to enlist your landlord’s help in removing the roommate (as discussed below), contact your landlord now and work out a plan. Also, some courts are still accepting eviction papers, but just postponing hearings until normal court procedures resume—check your local court’s website to find out if this is an option. Finally, consider having a frank discussion with the roommate. Chances are, you’re at home with this person due to stay-at-home orders. See if you can work out an agreement about your living arrangement that allows you to peacefully co-exist for now, and then go your separate ways once the pandemic fears are over. Be sure to put any arrangement in writing”.
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8. My landlord raised my rent by more than ten percent (10%) in under a one (1) year period. Is this legal?
According to the California Rental Housing Association’s website, “Landlords may raise the rent up to 5% plus the applicable Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 10%, whichever is lower. Percentage change in the CPI would mean the percentage change from April 1 of the prior year, to March 31 of the current year for the region in which the rental property is located. Your calculation must be from the lowest gross rental rate charged for the unit at any time during the 12 months prior to the effective date of increase. For renters who have lived in the unit for more than 12 months, you may raise the rent up to two times within that period, as long as the total increases do not exceed the state’s rent cap. If you raised the rent more than 5% plus CPI prior to March 15, 2019, the rent remains in effect without any change needed. If you raised the rent more than 5% plus CPI after March 15, 2019, you will need to adjust the rent down to the March 15, 2019 rent, plus 5% plus CPI or 10% (whichever is lower AS OF January 1, 2020.) No refund will be due to the tenant for rent collected from March 15, 2019 to January 1, 2020. This is because the bill was written with a retroactive rent date included. The new law does not affect your right to raise the rent to market once a tenant vacates the unit. However, once a new renter is placed in the unit, any future rent increases on that tenant will be subject to the rent cap. You may choose the initial rent for the new tenant. But once the new renter is in the unit, any future rent increases will be subject to the rent cap”. in new window)

9. My residence does not allow pets, but I have a service animal. Can I move it in anyway?
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), assistance animals must be allowed in housing as a reasonable accommodation for a tenant’s disability.

According to FEHA, a landlord may deny a request to keep a service dog, psychiatric service dog, or support animal in California as a reasonable accommodation if the specific animal:

  • Poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, OR
  • Would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others.

10. Do I still have to pay rent during the pandemic?
 “Under [AB 3088], no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction. Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.

The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action.

Additional legal and financial protections for tenants include:

  • Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from 3 to 15 days to provide tenant additional time to respond to landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.
  • Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if rental agreement was negotiated in a different language.
  • Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.
  • Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.
  • Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 – January 31, 2021.
  • Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.

Existing local ordinances can generally remain in place until they expire and future local action cannot undermine this Act’s framework. Nothing in the legislation affects a local jurisdiction’s ability to adopt an ordinance that requires just cause, provided it does not affect rental payments before January 31, 2021”
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